Universities Offering Esports Majors, Specialized Management Programs | Sports Destination Management

Universities Offering Esports Majors, Specialized Management Programs

May 27, 2023 | By: Michael Popke

A U.S. District Judge recently determined that esports is not a “sport” as it relates to Title IX compliance. But some university academic administrators clearly view videogaming as a sport, as well as a pursuit with a viable career potential, and are treating it the way they do other sports by launching new degreed programs in esports management.


Beginning in Fall 2024, Syracuse University will begin offering what officials there are calling a first-of-its-kind degree program called “Esports Communications and Management.” It will be offered jointly by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics, and it will include three tracks: Esports Business and Management, Esports Communications, and Esports Media and Design.


“The esports program is a natural extension of Syracuse University’s leadership in sport-related programs and commitment to 21st century academic excellence,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement. “This new major is the latest example of Syracuse University innovating, expanding career options in emerging fields and delivering programs students want.”


“Investment in our sport-related academic disciplines will be one of the keys to our success moving forward,” added Gretchen Ritter, the university’s vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer.


Meanwhile, Stockton University, in Galloway, N.J., plans to launch its Bachelor of Science degree in Esports Management through the School of Business. The program will include business fundamentals, professional work experience, a hands-on internship requirement and educational work opportunities for students seeking a career in the esports business.


The degree will offer esports-specific courses such as “Esports and Events Industry” and “Esports Event Production” to prepare students for a variety of esports-related careers, including event production, digital media and event marketing, and project management. Officials say students who graduate from this program will have earned more than 300 hours of experience.


As Stockton University has grown, so have its offerings related to hospitality, tourism, event management and business studies,” Warren Kleinsmith, the dean of the School of Business, said in a statement. “As a school, we strive to provide programming that is relevant and timely. This is one example of existing talent in our Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management programming seeing synergies between industries and building the necessary networks and curriculum to offer a highly competitive and academically rigorous degree.”


“Esports can revolutionize the local tourism industry and stimulate local economies by attracting businesses,” added Noel Criscione-Naylor, Stockton’s interim esports program chair. “Esports has a direct connection to traditional hospitality centers, such as hotel, food and beverage, events and tourism. Although esports exists within the digital space, there is a demonstrated desire from institutions and gamers themselves to root these practices within a physical space.”


Indeed, it’s difficult not to view esports as a sport, considering its trajectory in recent years. As Athletic Business reported in April, “the 2022 League of Legends Championship, held in November at the Golden State Warriors’ Chase Center, sold out the venue’s 18,000 seats, and the event drew 1.12 million total viewers, according to data analytics platform Esports Charts.”


Esports majors in collegesYet the lure of esports still catches some people off-guard.


“I work with plenty of people across the university and in higher education who are like, ‘E-what, now? What is this? People really do this?’” Christopher Hanson, an associate professor of English at Syracuse who has taught several esports-related courses, told Athletic Business. “Obviously, there are sold-out arenas, but then there’s this enormous online audience as well that is watching these events. It’s just always interesting to me to present this material to people who do not understand and do not see esports, and you can sort of see their jaw drop when they realize how enormous the audiences are. It’s like, ‘Wow, okay, then maybe we should pay a little more attention to this and think more seriously about what this means, and how we can best prepare new students for a shifting world.’”


That shifting world is what administrators at Syracuse and Stockton are addressing with their new degreed programs. “We have actively engaged with high school educators, esports leagues and associations, and industry partners to support students’ academic interests related to esports and create greater access to resources across the varying stakeholder groups,” Syracuse’s Criscione-Naylor said.


“This is something which students are really interested in, and it’s something they’re passionate about,” Hanson told The Daily Orange, Syracuse’s student newspaper. “Interest really helps drive that process, which I think is a really critical and important component as to why I think [the major] will be successful.”

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